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US new home sales rise in April

image captionNew-home sales make up only a small proportion of the US housing market

US new home sales rose for the second month in a row in April, climbing 7.3% on the month before, figures show.

April sales came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 323,000 homes, the Commerce Department said, which was stronger than analysts had forecast.

But sales are still at historically low levels and April's figure was 23.1% below that of April 2010.

In February 2011, new-home sales had fallen to a rate of 278,000, the lowest since records began in 1963.

The better-than-expected improvement in April signals a slight pick-up in the depressed construction sector.

Weak recovery

However, in terms of total sales, new home sales represent only a small portion of the US housing market.

Sales of previously-owned homes unexpectedly fell by 0.8% in April to an annual rate of 5.05 million, the National Association of Realtors said last week.

Oversupply of used homes and a large inventory of foreclosed properties is undermining a recovery in the housing market, analysts say.

Despite mortgage rates being at historic lows and rock-bottom house prices, would-be homebuyers also face high unemployment and a weak economic recovery.

"Although the headline figure has moved sharply on a month-to-month basis, reflecting in part the impact of harsh weather in earlier months, the bottom line is that the new home market continues to bounce along the bottom," said Omair Sharif at RBS Securities in Connecticut.